Whenever a new console is launched, there are always one or two decidedly awful titles released that have been thrown together in time for the big night. The publisher’s thinking here is that most early adopters will want to leave the store with a stack of games for their new console, and if they keep the retail price low, their atrocity will suddenly look like a bargain compared to the wave of full-priced titles that are available on day one.
That is undoubtedly what’s happened with Game Party Champions. Although, given that none of the other four titles in the Game Party series (one for Kinect, three for the original Wii) has managed to reach a Metacritic score of 40 out of 100, the reason that this particular launch title is so bad could well lie elsewhere. Strangely, the addition of the Wii U’s GamePad to an already appalling game series does little to improve the mix.
Eight mini-games comprise this little bundle of “fun”. You’ve got air hockey, skee-ball, table tennis, miniature golf, an automated baseball pitcher to swing at, a water gun game, and arcade-style basketball and American football machines to attempt to enjoy. And enjoy them you won’t. Each of the games features hefty dollops of slowdown, atrocious AI when you face off against a CPU player, and controls that are so hit-and-miss that you may as well not be playing.
Interestingly, single players can take part in a Story mode, which is unusual for this type of game. You choose a pre-made character (who is mute throughout – even when people are talking directly to him or her in a cutscene) and start on your way. We chose to play as the fresh-faced Riley, and watched his friend Jason (no, there’s no option to skip) start to riff his way through a bizarre monologue in an attempt to convince him to come and play in a series of arcade tournaments. You know, to help him get over the loss of his dad who died five years ago, and all that.
No, we’re not kidding.
When you finally make it to the arcade, you find that you can only choose from four of the games contained on the disc, with the other four unlocked when you complete the first set. To do this, you have to beat five opponents at each game type. This is simplicity itself due to the lack of any challenge from the AI opposition, and even the worst players will find themselves cruising through the stages to be rewarded with the same celebratory cutscene over and over again. “Watch out! This opponent is hard to beat!” warns the game, right before you win the Ping Pong final without dropping a single point, or beat a one-minute challenge score with 50 seconds to spare. In addition to the lack of challenge, any game that sees you going head-to-head against an AI player — rather than attempting to beat the score of one that is invisible — runs so slowly that you’ll start to think that your Wii U is about to turn its little plastic and metal toes up to the sky.
If you’ve more than one person who wants to play, Party Mode is where the action is. Or rather, Party Mode is where the action would be in pretty much every other game ever made. Here, players spin a wheel to see how many spaces they can move along on an incredibly simple board. The colour of the space that they land on determines which game they’ll be asked to play, and if they beat the challenge presented, they stay on their new spot. Fail, and they’ll move back to where they were. On our first go-round, the first game we stumbled upon was Air Hockey. The challenge was to score a goal against the CPU within 25 seconds, while all other players got the opportunity to “grief” the challenger via their Wii Remotes. None of the four of us worked out exactly what this griefing consisted of, as it didn’t seem to work.
We interrupt this portion of the review with an important note: “Griefing” is the only multiplayer action included in Game Party Champions. That’s right! A mini-game compilation that doesn’t allow more than one player to play any games. Ever.
After failing to score the required goal, we headed back to the board and got shuffled back to the start. A quick look at the watch proved that the 25-second challenge had taken around two and a half minutes, thanks to the incredibly long periods of loading that occur seemingly all the time. This is what puts the final nail in the Story Mode’s coffin too, as waiting for minutes at a time between rounds gives you enough of a chance to reflect on how soul-destroyingly bad the last round of gameplay was.
In terms of innovative GamePad use, Game Party Champions strikes out without even taking a swing. In all honesty, it barely makes it to the plate. All games (aside from water gun shooting, which uses the pad’s gyroscope as a set of sights) are controlled with swipes of the stylus and work in varying levels up to (and including) “barely acceptable”. In basketball, you have to swipe the stylus across the GamePad from bottom to top in order to take your shot, while tilting the device to aim. You would have thought that having to have the device tilted so far toward you that you can’t see the screen anymore would stop you from using the stylus properly. Funnily enough, it does.
And when you aren’t tearing your forearm muscles all to hell to try and get the game to respond properly, the second screen is either entirely white, or has a still image of the game logo in place. That pretty much goes to show exactly how much time and thought has really been put in here.
Game Party Champions is – to put it nicely – a bad game. We’re not even venturing into “so bad that it’s good” territory, either. We’re way past that. On the shelves on Wii U launch day, you could pick up any other title for just a few pounds more than the asking price of this. Alternatively, you could have not bothered buying any games, and still had more fun than if you’d walked out of the store with Game Party Champions. This is so bad that your great-great-grandchildren will want to change their surname when they find out that you once played it. Avoid.